Digging Out From Under the Pile

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Review

Production companies: Kerner Optical, Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm, Amblin Entertainment, Santo Domingo Film & Music Video
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchette, John Hurt, Ray Winstone

Rating: 4

As I think I once mentioned, I go into movies with the only expectation being that I’ll be entertained. I was entertained by Indy 4, but it just didn’t seem quite…in tune. I think part of the reason why I’ve given it as high of a rating as I have is because of the good will that I have towards the franchise, and the movie certainly didn’t kill the good will. I’ll probably go see it again on Monday with family, and I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on video to keep my collection complete.

But getting back to the movie. Indy himself has aged fairly well. I think one of my favorite bits was when he was escaping the Soviets and ran straight into a nuclear testing site. The exposition of what he’s been up to since we last saw him fell in line with what I would have expected of the character. I think the hardest part for me was the loss of Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody. I appreciated the acknowledgment of his loss, but when they had Jim Broadbent’s character entering Indy’s classroom the way Marcus used to, it felt wrong. There were other little things similar to this that just struck a wrong chord for me, but I’ll acknowledge it could very well be because I am such a long term fan of the series. Plus, I’m one of those people with a degree in anthropology thanks in part to Indiana Jones. There were bits in the movie I did greatly like, such as the scene with one of Indy’s students in the library as they’re trying to escape KGB men. I also loved seeing Karen Allen as Marion again. The banter between Marion and Indy in parts was pretty darn close to what it had been in Raiders.

Overall, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with a professional movie critic (spoilers!) here, but I think the weakest part of the movie was Lucas’ script. It was uneven and missed a lot of what worked in the previous films. The actors and Spielberg definitely did their best with what they had to work with, but Blanchette’s character in particular seemed cartoonish. As an Indy villian, I found Amrish Puri’s Mola Ram so much more real. The more I think about this, I think the root of these issues is Lucas’ attempt to change the genre of Indy from world adventurer to science fiction, “the aliens are out to get us”. Yes, I get that pulp storyline’s more in keeping with the time period of Crystal Skull, but I’ve always been more a fan of the ’30’s adventurers, even with the paranormal elements. When Indy 4 was announced, I really feared Lucas would be the one to sink the ship after the way he screwed with Star Wars (Phantom Menace, ick). He hasn’t sunk the ship, but he sure as hell didn’t help it with the insistence on alien intervention. Probably the best part of the movie were the action scenes and Ford, Allen and Shia LaBeouf put on a great show.

Final analysis, if you’re a fan of the Indy series, go see it to catch up with favorite characters Indy and Marion. If you enjoy action adventures in your summer movies, this is a good bet. If movies with some cheese and ’50’s alien theories aren’t your thing, stay away.

One more thing I found hilarious, I stayed past the credits just in case there was an easter egg scene. Not the case, but I was there with a bunch of high schoolers waiting for the same thing, and I heard one kid say “that’s the end of the movie?” Interesting how we’ve been conditioned to expect an extra scene after the credits with “summer blockbusters”.